Evernote, productivity app!
Time is precious, and you want all of it you can get. You’ve probably said to yourself, “If only there were two more hours in the day.” I know I have! Well over the past few years of running my own business I have learned a few things when it comes to making the best use of your time.
Forget Push Notifications
Do you really need your phone buzzing and dinging every time an email comes in? Chances are you don’t. Early on when I first started my business I used push notifications. I was excited about every email that came in. I couldn’t wait to see if it was a new customer ready to start an account, but eventually it became a huge distraction.
I also used to have pop-up notifications turned on in Sparrow (my mail client). I often found myself distracted by emails that were really not that important. The truth is, most emails don’t need an immediate response, and if they do chances are you are aware that email is coming in, and you can check your email as needed.
Now, I’m not the type that only checks my email twice a day, but for some people limiting your time with the Inbox open may be just the thing you need to stay a highly productive person.
For me this used to be done in a Moleskin, but eventually my task list grew beyond pen and paper. How people kept task lists before apps like Evernote and Remember the Milk I will never know. Pen and paper simply can’t contain all that I have to do.
I’m a huge fan of Evernote, it allows me to create multiple notes, under multiple categories. I have several “notebooks” within Evernote. To name a few; Personal, Business, Blog Ideas/Web Stuff, Milleage. Within my business notebook I have a note called Task List where I create checklists of my to-do’s. My to-do list is perhaps what keeps me the most organized. (For more on Evernote, check out this blog post by Lifehacker)
Prioritize the To-Do List
Within Evernote my to-do checklist is broken down into three categories:
Urgent and Important
– These are tasks that must be done that day, or on a certain date within that week. Examples include; running payroll, paying rent, and filing quarterly taxes. They are the essential things you must do to keep your staff happy and business running
Important but Not Urgent
These things are important to the growth of your business and at times have a deadline attached to them, but that deadline may be a ways off. But if you end up approaching that deadline it has the potential to move into the Urgent and Important category.
It’s hard to list specific examples for this since it will vary so much from business to business, but a few from my personal list right now are; file Non-GMO paperwork, find back-up suppliers for ingredients, order t-shirts, create sales post card. None of the tasks I listed have a hard-fast deadline attached to them, but all are important to the growth and health of our business.
Not Important and Not Urgent
It’s slightly more difficult to determine what goes here, because most entrepreneurs will consider everything important. But tasks that fall into this category are things that are not critical to the growth of your business. Note, that I said, “critical.” For us finding alternate suppliers for our ingredients is critical, because if one supplier runs out of something we have to have a back up supply. Updating our Facebook masthead however is not urgent (unless it ties in with a Holiday sale).
Having your task list broken up like this will help you focus on what’s truly important. It also helps you not have a mental breakdown by looking at one HUGE list.
Take time at the start of every day to review your task list and check emails. Review your task-list and make necessary adjustments. If something has been on your urgent and important list for three days, you either need to tackle that first, or move it to another list. I also use this time to cull through my Inbox and make sure there aren’t any emails I haven’t responded to yet.
This is something I struggled with early on in my business. I wanted to do everything myself. But it wasn’t because I truly wanted to do that, it was mostly because I didn’t think anybody could do it as good as I could. I read in ReWork that if you can find somebody to do that job at least 70% as good as you can its time to pass the torch (paraphrased).
I have found delegation is necessary for a healthy organization. It not only frees yourself up to focus on the growth of the business but it empowers your team members and gives them buy in. I can’t even imagine how many hours I would be putting in a week if I didn’t start delegating duties to other team members.
This is perhaps one of my biggest life savers. Early in my business when I was doing pretty much EVERYTHING. I would often forget things. I would stroll into the kitchen early in the morning, ready to make Ginger Peach energy bars only to discover I hadn’t ordered the ginger, so I would have to go to the grocery store to purchase ginger. Being forgetful disrupts your day, and the larger your organization becomes the more disruptive forgetfulness has on your organization. For example, forgetting an order of ginger now means we have to move that production day somewhere else on the calendar, which means the team might have to work a weekend to get the job done.
So, use your smart phones reminder feature. Also make sure you utilize the reminders for events in your calendar. I usually set two; one for the day before to remind me the event is coming, and one 15 minutes before (earlier if I have to drive to the appointment). Reminders are especially useful if there are weekly tasks you have to perform. It can be easy to even forget daily duties when things get crazy busy.
Don’t forget to take some time to relax! Get outside, exercise! Do something other than work. It’s definitely easier said than done, but I have found when I take the time to exercise, and actually end my workday, I am far less stressed. For me the exercise is crucial. I might be having the worse day ever, but if I take the time to go on a run, the stress usually winds down and I can think clearly again. Don’t underestimate the importance of exercise and relaxation.
Work in a productive environment
Find a place where you can get work done. Our current production facility is not conducive to this. I have a large and very noisy condenser unit for a walk in cooler directly above my desk, which makes it difficult to host meetings and impossible to make phone calls.
So find a place where you can focus and get stuff done. For some people it may be a coffee shop, for others it may be working from home. If your office doesn’t allow for this check to see if there are other options. In my last 9-5 job I would go shut myself in an empty conference room if I needed to get a lot of work done.
It might also help to have mandatory quiet hours in your office. I remember walking into the office of a popular tech startup one day expecting to see more of a party environment than an office, but that wasn’t the case. Quietly working at their desk were about 15-20 employees, many wearing headphones. I can only assume they had a mandatory quiet hour rule in place.